growth skills

April 26, 2024

Don’t argue for your limitations

Sometimes when I try to explain possibilities beyond the limitations someone sees as real, they will become defensive & accusatory. “You don’t understand how limiting this limit really is!!”. Sometimes this takes the form of, “You are privileged; you don’t get it; you don’t have to suffer this limit, so you can’t possibly understand it”.

I usually walk away from these conversations just feeling sad. It’s not that I disagree that privilege is a real social phenomenon–of course it is. But that doesn’t mean people are helpless, and it doesn’t mean there are no possibilities to work around the way society is set up. Two things can be true–life can be unfair, and you can still make the best of your life. But if you argue for your limitations, you are making them more real, not less.

This usually boils down to an unmet need for validation, but limiting yourself to prove you have been limited is a costly strategy to employ. You can validate the suffering you’ve experienced without staying in it. “This sucks, and I’m moving forward anyway.”

April 19, 2024

Talking to yourself is good actually

It’s ironic to me that we are told that talking to yourself means you’re crazy when it’s really the opposite – parts work (talking to the inner parts of yourself) makes you sane.

But you have to do it with respect. Give up inner bullying, inner tyranny (thinking one part can overpower all the others and “get them in line”)…approach your inner parts with genuine curiosity, respect, and care and you can transform your inner world from a battleground to a symposium of support and cooperation.

April 12, 2024

How I use NVC

Let’s talk about NVC – Nonviolent Communication. NVC sometimes gets a bad rap because using it as instructed can make you sound like you’re a robot. “Are you feeling sad because you need connection?” Like, ya think?

But I’ve found NVC to be one of the most useful foundational skills you can have in doing growth work, NOT because I talk like this IRL or insist everyone else talk like this. Trying to make someone else change their speech is a form of violence, and talking like a robot does not meet my own need for authenticity.

But what NVC does brilliantly is show that there is a pathway from competition-for-needs to cooperation-for-needs. It doesn’t always stick the landing on helping people make that shift, but just from understanding the basic principles (that everything everyone does is in service of a need), you start to shift how you think about human behavior. You move away from judgement and expectations and toward the ground truth that we are all just running around trying to get our needs met. Some of us have better strategies than others, but ALL of us are steeped in the idea of competition and scarcity and zero-sum. And that’s just a terrible way to live, honestly. To think that the only way your needs can be met is to deprive someone else of their needs (or sacrifice your own needs) puts you into a trauma headspace and limits your options to fight-flight-freeze-fawn.

And we often turn into assholes when we are triggered. I did for a long time, and had to do a lot of work on being able to meet my own emotional needs and heal attachment trauma, and un-suppress parts of me that were coming out sideways. Equally I had to work on my tendency to fawn and self-sacrifice when I felt a connection I really valued was on the line. NVC wasn’t enough to heal all that–I had to do a lot of other kinds of work. And that’s one of the downsides of NVC, that it doesn’t tell you how much inner work is actually required to stop being violent. (Especially if you have any significant trauma history).

But NVC helped me understand what the goal was–to be able to stay in a space where I believed everyone’s needs are valid and can be met, at all times, because if I’m not in that space, I’m going to be doing some form of violence to someone (could be me, could be you). So I see NVC as a kind of touchstone for myself–it shows me where I still need to work on my beliefs and mental habits to deprogram myself from violence. Because the violence isn’t just over in Gaza. It’s in all of us, and all our relationships, constantly. It’s in our politics, it’s in our economy. It’s in our heads and often in our hearts, unfortunately. When we are overcome by fear, someone loses (often yourself). The antidote is to believe we really can solve for everyone’s needs if we stay in connection and conversation. But to have faith in that when our biology kicks in requires a lot of practice and work for most of us. So in summary, don’t blame NVC that it doesn’t instantly make people genuinely nonviolent. That’s just the work we have to do as a species, and it’s going to take a lot from all of us.

Learn more about NVC on my other blog Joy Ninja. I also have a mobile friendly list of needs.

March 3, 2024

You don’t have to meditate to be spiritual

If you can’t meditate, it’s OK–mindfulness is the point (that is what unlocks neuroplasticity and allows brain rewiring), and you can do that other ways. I have never been able to mentally sit still enough to meditate. What I do is apply mindfulness all day long. I am constantly noticing what it’s like to be me and how I’m responding to things, and considering whether that response is a conditioned response or an authentic one, and if there is any emotion present to process (process = sit with and talk to the part that holds the emotion, with compassion, until it releases). And I’ve been wildly successful with this–so no, you don’t have to meditate. And yeah I’m sure it would be good for me to meditate the way vegetables would be good for me to eat, but neither are very accessible to me right now (see: ADHD). You can start where you are and be who you are and still use mindfulness to change who you are. Your path of liberation doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s path–it just has to actually work for you.

Learn more about mindfulness on my other blog.